Tracy Arm–Ford’s Terror Wilderness

Jul 04, 2018 - National Geographic Sea Bird


It's the Fourth of July! After a festive fireworks show in Juneau and cruising through the night we found ourselves waking up in enchanting Tracy Arm Fjord to full sunshine. We began the day ensconced in a deep and stunning fjord leading to the South Sawyer Glacier under bright cerulean skies. 

Designated the Tracy Arm-Fords Terror Wilderness by the United States Congress in 1980 this is a land of enchantment. With mountains rising high above our home on the National Geographic Sea Bird, the granitic cliffs and wall faces soared above us. This fjord is mesmerizing—the mountains display a dazzling assortment of colors, sheer cliff walls with green foliage line the area like a maze, and of course that big, beautiful, blue glacier.

After a wholesome breakfast we boarded our expedition landing craft and soon were dodging ice and at other times going straight through it in the aquamarine, gem-like waters. From growlers and bergie bits to icebergs, we learned of the long process it takes to create these majestic valleys and glaciers. We were even lucky enough to see some incredible calving right up close with the thunderous splash of tons of ice crashing into the frigid waters below.

After being attacked by strange Vikings who came bearing hot cocoa to warm our katabatically cooled hearts we headed back to the ship for a holiday lunch. Then without missing a beat we were off in the kayaks, while others took another expedition landing craft tour exploring more of Tracy Arm. Activities like counting the waterfalls seemed as challenging as counting all the harbor seals we saw. Capping off our time in Tracy Arm a few intrepid individuals took a polar plunge into those icy waters to the delight of many onlookers enjoying the thrill vicariously.

Wildlife abounds in the area and we saw quite a bit of that in the form of the hundreds of harbor seals; swimming, sleeping, rafting up on the ice, and hanging out in large groups. Some harbor porpoises, bald eagles, and numerous gulls added a wonderful presence amongst the scenery.

The day continued with traversing out of Tracy Arm, crossing Holkum Bay, and cruising into Stephen's Passage ever searching for unique wildlife, and continuing on our expedition with dreams of what adventures tomorrow might bring.

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About the Author

David Westling, Botswain

David Westling, Botswain

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